No. 2 Duke beats No. 5 Kentucky, 69-61
Tricia Liston had some good looks at the basket, but the Duke
senior guard just mostly used her height and quickness to score
easy layups no matter who was on her.
Those opportunities seemed to be there all day for the Blue
Devils against Kentucky.
Liston scored a season-high 28 points to help No. 2 Duke beat
the fifth-ranked Wildcats 69-61 before 23,706 fans at Rupp Arena on
Five days after defending champion and No. 1 Connecticut soundly
dealt the Blue Devils their first loss, they used their size and
length to hand the Wildcats their first defeat before the largest
crowd to see a women’s game in Kentucky along with the biggest Duke
has ever played in front of.
The 6-foot-1 Liston thrived on mismatches to shoot 10 of 19 from
the field, including two 3-pointers, falling a point short of her
career best. Duke’s 6-3 center, Elizabeth Williams, was 6 of 10 to
chip in 17 points and had eight rebounds.
The Blue Devils (12-1) stifled Kentucky (11-1) around the
basket, limiting the Wildcats to 25-of-75 shooting (33 percent) and
3 of 15 from long range. Poor free throw shooting also doomed
Kentucky, which made a season-worst 8 of 19 from the line (42
Janee Thompson had 12 second-half points to lead Kentucky and
helped rally the Wildcats to 59-55 with 6:07 remaining. Liston
answered with consecutive layups to stretch Duke’s lead back to
eight and provide a safe cushion as the Blue Devils won their
second in a row.
”We just stayed more focused on what we needed to do, taking
care of the ball and getting stops on defense, rather than worrying
about it getting too tight,” Liston said. ”We needed to make sure
not to get involved with the crowd and everything else that was
going on. We did a really good job of staying poised and staying
with our game plan.”
Added Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie: ”Tricia’s leadership was
incredible. She’s a very, very smart basketball player with a lot
of experience. She was huge for us in terms of getting the team
together and making things happen.”
Duke shot 26 of 59 (44 percent), made 15 of 18 free throws and
outrebounded Kentucky 46-42. The Blue Devils also outscored the
Wildcats 40-34 in the paint.
Samarie Walker and Bria Goss had eight points for Kentucky.
”They outworked us today and I think that’s what happens in
games with two really good teams going at it,” Wildcats coach
Matthew Mitchell said. ”They were just a team that worked harder.
Not that our team didn’t work hard, I just think Duke worked
harder. You give them credit. They did a nice job.”
The game began in a charged atmosphere with the Wildcats playing
before a crowd four times their season average at nearby Memorial
Coliseum. The question was whether students and faculty would help
break the state record of 22,152 set in 2010 when Kentucky played
at Louisville’s KFC Yum! Center.
Duke entered its third game in a week after blowing out Albany
on Thursday. There have been few easy opponents for the Blue
Devils, particularly this month with Kentucky representing their
fourth ranked foe in five games.
That stretch thoroughly prepared a Duke squad that was no
stranger to 23,000-seat Rupp, losing here to Kentucky two years ago
as the Wildcats’ annual appearance resumed after a brief hiatus.
And in building a 36-24 halftime lead, the Blue Devils certainly
weren’t in awe of the massive building, the partisan crowd or
Kentucky’s trademark pressure defense.
With size advantages at many positions including Williams having
a two-inch edge over Walker – who went scoreless in the first half
– Duke simply exploited it on both ends. Frequent layups helped the
Blue Devils shoot 14 of 29 from the field including seven straight
baskets during one stretch.
”One thing that we talked about was being able to control the
tempo this game, knowing they were a pressing team,” Williams
said. ”We were aware of their pressure and overall we did a pretty
Duke’s length also made it difficult for Kentucky to pass and
shoot against the zone. The Wildcats began 0 for 5 en route to 10
of 35 for the half, often finding hands in front of them as they
struggled to work the ball inside and around the perimeter, keeping
them from spotting up from long range.